Eagles Wake-Up Call: RB Training Camp Preview

Each day this week, we’ll take a look at a different position group as we count down to training camp.

What’s changed?

Chip Kelly’s Oregon squad totaled 21 running plays of 30+ yards last year, tied for most in the country.

That’s excellent news for LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. While the exact identity of the Eagles’ offense has yet to be revealed, all signs point to Kelly leaning on the running game and featuring a healthy dose of his top two backs.

McCoy averaged 4.2 yards per carry and 70 yards per game in 2012 – his lowest numbers since his rookie season. But he was running behind a banged-up offensive line and often had nowhere to go.

Brown, meanwhile, averaged 4.9 yards per carry and showed he has the size/speed to break off big runs. Brown had six gains of 20+ yards on 115 attempts (one every 19.2 carries).

The Eagles also have second-year player Chris Polk, free agent addition Felix Jones and undrafted free agent Matthew Tucker.

The pressing question: Can McCoy bounce back?

The 25-year-old was one of Andy Reid’s biggest supporters, but he should welcome the offseason changes. The key to how quickly the Eagles can pick up Kelly’s offense will be the offensive line. With Todd Herremans moving inside to guard, and Jason Peters and Jason Kelce returning, this group has a chance to be one of the best run-blocking units in the league.

Even last year, McCoy was one of 14 running backs to carry the ball at least 200 times and average 4.2 yards per carry or better. And he still had his elusiveness. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, McCoy broke 44 tackles on 254 touches. The FOA crew projects McCoy for 1,155 yards, eight touchdowns and a 4.8 YPC average in 2013. Those numbers certainly seem reachable from this perspective.

Don’t be surprised if…

Brown fixes his fumbling issue. That was the problem in Year 1. He fumbled four times on 115 carries (136 touches), but remember that Brown was not your average rookie. He had only carried the ball three times in game situations since the end of the 2009 season. It seems reasonable to think he would need some time to get adjusted to the speed and chaos of the NFL.

The Football Outsiders Almanac cited a few running backs who had similar fumbling rates (percentage of touches with a fumble) to Brown as rookies. Ryan Mathews saw his rate drop from 2.8 to 1.8 in his second season. Toby Gerhart went from 2.9 to 0.8. And Chris Ivory from 2.9 to 0.0.

If history is any indication, Brown, whose fumbling rate was 2.9 last season, should be able to improve his ball security in Year 2.

Roster battles to watch

The only thing to really to keep an eye on here is depth. Polk didn’t play an offensive snap as a rookie, but shed weight this offseason and is looking to get into the mix.

The Eagles took a flier on Jones as a free agent. Last year, Jones was one of only eight players with at least 100 carries to average worse than 3.7 yards per carry. But for his career, he’s one of six active players to average 4.7 yards per carry on at least 500 attempts. It seems like Jones has been around forever, but he’s only 26. The Eagles are hoping he can get provide depth and versatility.

Tucker was a rotational player in college, but Kelly obviously liked his skills and measurables.

There’s a chance the Eagles will go four-deep at running back since they’re not keeping a fullback on the roster, but it’s also possible only one other player joins McCoy and Brown.

WHAT YOU MISSED

DeSean Jackson predicts that Michael Vick will win the starting QB job.

Do we expect to go 46-7 over the next whatever years? No,” says Kelly.

In yesterday’s camp preview, we looked at the offensive line.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Peters had charges dropped from an arrest for racing last month, per CSN’s Derrick Gunn:

Peters on June 12 was charged with speeding and resisting an officer by flight in Monroe, La.

According to CSN’s Derrick Gunn, via the District Attorney’s office in Monroe, those charges were dismissed on June 20. Instead, he was charged with having improper equipment — an after-market muffler.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com looks at the Eagles’ offensive line situation:

The Center position will be just fine if Jason Kelce stays healthy. Dallas Reynolds was a mess early last year, but improved as the year went along. He had some snap issues that must be fixed, but he did show that he could be an effective NFL starter. Matt Tennant was strictly a role player in 2012. He would like to win a spot and challenge for time this year. We’ll see how that goes.

COMING UP

We’ll do a national media roundup and more.

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